WASHINGTON -- President-elect Bush filled four Cabinet posts Friday. He named the Houston school superintendent to be secretary of education, a former Colorado attorney general as head of the Interior Department, a Vietnam veteran to become secretary of veterans affairs and Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson to be secretary of health and human services.
Then he flew back to Austin, Texas, for New Year's weekend.
--Rod Paige, the second black member of his Cabinet, for education, a man the president-elect called a reformer with a record of results. He said Paige has shown in Houston that "urban schools can be excellent schools."
--Gale Norton, Colorado attorney general for eight years, now a Denver lawyer, for Interior. She held posts in the Interior and Agriculture departments in earlier Republican administrations. Bush said she will help him "find ways to develop our nation's resources in a balanced and environmentally friendly way," an indirect reference to his commitment to developing U.S. oil and gas supplies.
--Anthony J. Principi of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., to be secretary of veterans affairs, the department in which he served as deputy when Bush's father was president. Principi is a decorated Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, who later became counsel to the Senate Veteran's Affairs Committee. He has been a California communications businessman since leaving the government.
--Thompson, the longest-serving Republican governor, now in his fourth term in Wisconsin, to take over at Health and Human Services, the largest civilian agency in the government.
Bush called him "a creative, conservative compassionate governor" and a leader in welfare reform.
Thompson is an abortion opponent, as is Bush. Asked about the effect of that stand in his new job, Thompson said: "Everybody knows that I listen to everybody and will continue to do so."
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America immediately announced that it would strongly oppose Thompson's confirmation.
Conservative on environmental issues, Norton favors abortion rights.
Paige and Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell are the two black nominees to the Bush Cabinet.
The Friday appointments left three Cabinet slots to be filled after the new year, the secretaries of labor, energy and transportation.
Thompson, 59, will head a department that includes the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other agencies.
HHS also oversees the Medicare and Medicaid health insurance programs for elderly, disabled and poor people, and the Head Start program for children. And it provides financial assistance to low-income families.
Since 1986, when Thompson first was elected governor, the number of welfare families in Wisconsin has fallen from more than 98,000 to just over 16,000.
Some credit the economic boom for the decline in the welfare case load, but Thompson took a series of bold, early steps, cutting the public assistance checks of parents whose kids skipped school, requiring fathers to participate in work programs if they failed to pay child support and paying teen-age parents more if they got married.
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